Bulldog by Melissa Greiner; for more information, visit

From the Hearth

by Maria Kute

It is so warm by the fire. The wet and cloudy winter, the workload, the pets, the huge gravitational pull of change had caught up with me of late. It’s only been a year, I remember, since I accepted that my marriage was over. It’s only been a year since I was a student, externing in the hospital and in the schools. That day, I called my supervisor, feeling dumbstruck and numbed as I asked if, perhaps, I should stay home. Could I have walked into the ICU and reliably told the nurse that a patient could swallow safely, or perhaps not, when I could barely feel anything but my own “globus sensation,”  that indeterminate and overwhelming feeling of obstruction in one’s own throat?

It’s been less than a year since I learned that, for a pre-school student, you can use your ankles at the bottom of the chair to lock them into a seat with a table. If they have trouble adjusting to the brief periods of time in which they must sit, you let them sit close enough for comfort, but not far away enough to wiggle out. The edge of the table works on their laps like the safety bar on a roller coaster. We lock in, ankle to chair, belly to table, and throw our hands up for the ride.

Today, there are a hundred other things filling my consciousness keeping me warm. I hear the lilt in one of my student’s voices as he asked, in the way only a child with autism and an incredibly sweet demeanor can, if he can go to speech today. His mix of enthusiasm and calm as he explained “I want to go today. Not Friday.” I remember his acceptance when I iterated “Friday,” and asked him to confirm: “When are you going to speech?”

And this weekend, I was getting in my own way, and someone I loved held me instead of scolding me. Someone I loved let me smear sparkly makeup on them, while I cried without quite knowing why, until I realized that old behavior patterns always fight hardest when they’re about to be extinguished for good.Finally letting them go means watching them put up one last, desperate, blitzkrieg gasp before they seem pointless. I can accept them for what they are. No need for idealization: of myself or others. No need to feel less than, unworthy, inadequate, or small.

And I write such bald (if somewhat vague) things because it’s just one more way I can be vulnerable to, and involved with, the world at large. Imperfect as I, and the world, are. Beautiful, too.

And so today I’m writing a love letter by the warm fire to the rain, to my dog who licks the floor for hours when she is hungry rather than finding her food, to my students who always want to come to speech—as if it’s like winning the lottery. To anyone who knows when to hold someone, rather than scold them, and when it’s time to lock in for the ride. All these things humble me, and I’m awestruck and grateful.

About Maria Kute

Maria Kute practices speech-language pathology in the greater Seattle area schools. She has lived almost everywhere, including Florida, Kentucky, and New Mexico. She left part of her heart in Nevada with the Reno and Las Vegas Slam Poet teams. Her work has appeared online and in other collections, including “The Yes Book”. When she is not writing, she is singing, spoiling her pets, or marveling at the natural world.